In this Gujarat village, at least 13 men don’t have a kidneyhttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/in-this-gujarat-village-at-least-13-men-dont-have-a-kidney/

In this Gujarat village, at least 13 men don’t have a kidney

Villagers say it was never a secret among the 15,000-odd families — selling off a kidney to pay debts is a “common practice”. Multi-speciality transplant hospitals “send their agents” to seek kidney sellers, they add.

The makeshift tarpaulin hut, which was supposed to provide some peace and quiet to the Malik family, is full of people. Aamir Malik’s wife tries to pacify their baby daughter while the rest of the family tries to explain a murky story to the visitors — police, health officials, politicians and media.

Malik, a 27-year-old cattle trader, was allegedly cheated into selling his kidney to pay off debts. It was the FIR lodged by Malik that blew the lid off an organ racket in Pandoli village, where at least 13 men — between the ages of 20 and 35 — have a missing kidney.

Banu, Malik’s father, had gathered his family in the makeshift hut to escape the public glare. But that was not to be. Banu is now busy describing how Malik’s kidney was “extracted” in a Delhi hospital on February 12, without his knowledge. “He had a debt of Rs 1 lakh and he wanted an interest-free loan to pay it off. He asked his friends for help,” he says.

On Monday, Aamir told the police that he was whisked away to Delhi, “drugged and unconscious”, by his “friends” who “cheated him” into selling his kidney. With the Rs 2.3 lakh he got for the kidney, Malik paid off his debt and put the rest of the money in the bank for his two daughters — aged three and one.

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Anand police have constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the case. SP Ashok Kumar Yadav says, “We are probing all angles. The villagers have told us about some hospitals. We will probe all their records. There are also statements about kidney agents from Sri Lanka.” Since Monday, the police have been questioning the villagers of Pandoli in Petlad taluka of Anand district.

Pandoli resident Rafiq Ahmed Vohra, an auto driver, allegedly sold his kidney six months ago. It was Rafiq, Aamir says, who was behind the selling of his kidney.

At Vohra’s home, his wife Zahida is apprehensive about the possibility of his arrest. Surrounded by curious villagers, Zahida says, “We had a huge debt after our daughter’s marriage. He said he had been able to pay off all of it. He was weak after surgery, but he is perfectly healthy.”

Villagers say it was never a secret among the 15,000-odd families — selling off a kidney to pay debts is a “common practice”. Multi-speciality transplant hospitals “send their agents” to seek kidney sellers, they add.

“In 2001, Poonam Solanki was the first from our village to sell his kidney. Since then, several others have followed,” says Raman Solanki, a panchayat employee. “Recently, two of them died. Some are absconding.”

Poonam’s wife Mangu says, “I fell sick after our second son was born. When my husband sold his kidney, we were able to save money for our children,” she says, denying that he lured other villagers into selling their kidneys.

SP Yadav says that while kidney donation is a voluntary act, the transaction that Pindol villagers indulged in was “illegal” under the Organ Transplantation Act, 1994.

“The law states that the donor and recipient need to be registered with an organ donation committee that streamlines the process after verification. No monetary transaction can occur in the donation even if the committee approves it. We will deal with all previous cases, since 2001, in the same light,” he says.

The 13 suspected kidney racket victims have been sent to Ahmedabad civil hospital for verification and referred to B J Medical College for tests.

Dr Bharat Shah, dean of B J Medical College, says, “Examination confirmed the removal of kidneys”.

Dr H L Trivedi, director of Institute of Kidney Disease and Research (IKDRC) says the institute will cooperate with the authorities in explaining transplantation procedures.

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Dr Veena Shah, chairperson of the ethics committee at IKDRC, says the epicentre of such rackets keeps moving from country to country. “One way to prevent this is to increase awareness among people about cadaver transplant and increase number of such transplants.”

with INPUTS from TANVIR SIDDIQUI, ahmedabad